In Article 3 of the 1991 Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Parties committed themselves to ‘the protection of the Antarctic environment…and the intrinsic value of Antarctica, including its wilderness and aesthetic values.’ The phraseology of the Protocol requires clarification. ‘Wilderness and aesthetic values’ links two disparate concepts, best handled by separation. Annex V, Article 3, of the Protocol covers many topics, and their assessment must be by a composite of frameworks specifically designed for the different purposes set out in the Annex.
A working definition of wilderness in the Antarctic is suggested: ‘Any part of the Antarctic in which neither permanent habitation nor any other permanent evidence of present or past human presence is visible.’ Using this, a very high proportion of the continent will be recognised as having wilderness status. The phrase ‘aesthetic values’ should be seen as part of a wider process—Landscape Character Assessment—that is at present unknown to most in the Antarctic community. It is based on the principle of objective description and classification of landscape character. This basic characterisation can then be put to different uses, one of which may be to make more subjective judgements or evaluations that lead to area designations.